Arizona Cardinals 2014 Fantasy Football Breakdown
The Arizona Cardinals are a team on the rise. That’s the hope, at least, following a 10-6 season in which they barely missed out on the playoffs. Of course, even with their solid record, missing out on the post-season is the price you pay for not being better that the mighty Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers in the dreaded NFC West.
The team has made improvements across the board in an effort to lessen the gap, while they already know they can contend thanks to a win in Seattle last year and some close battles lately with the 49ers. Carson Palmer is in his second year of head coach Bruce Arians system and AZ also handed the starting running back gig to the explosive Andre Ellington. Hypothetically, this should keep the opposition honest with a more balanced, less predictable attack.
Fantasy Football owners may still find great success in using Arizona’s passing game weapons, though, as Arians still won’t be shy about airing it out. To get a better idea as to just how much value all of the Cardinals’ top options have in fantasy football this year, let’s break each of them down:
Carson Palmer – Quarterback
Palmer isn’t the sexy name he once was. He’s also super immobile. However, Arizona has an awesome vertical system, some really nice weapons and Palmer can still sling it. No one can feel particularly great about him facing the Seahawks and Niners twice a year, but he otherwise has a pretty favorable schedule the rest of the year. Last year was Palmer’s first in Arians’ system and he should now have perfect chemistry with his top weapons in the passing game. The Cards are also balancing out their offense a bit, so he should have a little more time to throw and should be even more effective. Considering he was 17th best passer a year ago, it’s believable that he’ll be even better in 2014. He’s probably just a high-end QB2 to get things going, but he’ll absolutely have QB1 potential in any given week.
Andre Ellington – Running Back
The road has been paved for the electrifying Ellington to be the Cardinals’ true feature back. While not the biggest or strongest back, Ellington was still certainly impressive in 2013, as he finished his rookie year with a gaudy 5.5 yards per carry average. That should see a dip, but as long as Arizona uses Ellington primarily in space and on the outside, he should remain highly effective. You’ll want to avoid some of those matchups within the NFC West, but Ellington’s schedule is set up for him to succeed and he absolutely has the talent to turn into an elite fantasy back. If you can snag him in the third round you might have one heck of a steal.
Larry Fitzgerald – Wide Receiver
Fitzgerald gets a bad rap for some reason, as he’s 31 years old and suddenly in major decline. The reality is the guy had a horrible quarterback situation in 2012 and dealt with nagging injuries in 2013. Despite that, Fitzgerald still finished last year as fantasy football’s 16th best wide receiver. He has an emerging talent next to him and it was his first season with Palmer and operating out of a new offense. Add the injuries, and it was actually a fairly impressive finish. Fitzgerald clearly needs to remain Arizona’s top dog in the passing game and stay healthy to get you a value return, but he still carries WR1 upside. Draft him as a WR2 and you’re golden.
Michael Floyd – Wide Receiver
Floyd is that “emerging talent” that Fitzgerald owners may want to keep an eye on. I still don’t think Floyd is better than Fitzgerald right now and when it’s all said and done Fitz should still lead AZ in receptions. However, Floyd is a worthy talent and is very much on the rise. After a semi-breakout season last year with his first 1,000+ yard season, Floyd should see a spike in targets and could put his great size and ball skills to better use in the red-zone. This pass-happy offense suits him extremely well and the reviews have been hot this summer. He’s a locked and loaded WR2 that could shock as an elite WR1.
John Brown – Wide Receiver
Brown has been a bit of a rookie sensation throughout camp and preseason play, and he could slowly chip his way into the slot role in this offense. That’s no lock just yet, but Brown has been hyped up quite a bit and has the speed to do a ton of damage if he can earn a key role. That third receiver role hasn’t shown to be all that valuable in fantasy circles in the past, but Brown is a talent worth keeping an eye on. Called “uncoverable” this summer, Brown could be an eventual starter.
John Carlson – Tight End
There are three tight ends in Arizona, and almost none of them are worth talking about. Troy Niklas is a rookie, Rob Housler has been a waste and Carlson is new to the offense. Carlson is probably going to be the main tight end, though, since he has the better, more proven resume and Niklas is just a rookie. That should lead to the Cards parting ways with Housler and should keep Carlson in the driver seat for 40-45 receptions. That probably isn’t going to be good for anything more than TE2 value, unfortunately, as Bruce Arians simply doesn’t cater to the tight end in his offense, Niklas is the dark horse due to his superior blocking ability, but he holds more value in dynasty leagues than 2014 redraft leagues.
Arizona Cardinals – Team Defense
Once a prominent fantasy unit, the 2014 Cardinals fantasy team defense could be a real problem. Daryl Washington (suspension), Karlos Dansby (free agency) and Darnell Dockett (torn ACL) are all gone and suddenly a once athletic and aggressive unit is looking old, mangled and slow. They still have terrific pieces, but up front and at linebacker they are suddenly lacking stability and depth. They might prove me wrong, but for now they’re arguably a defense to avoid.